Select Rice Miscellany

Here are some Rice stories and accounts over the years:

Rice Fortunes in Tudor Times

Rice fortunes fluctuated hugely in Tudor times.  They reached their highest point of wealth influence in the person of Sir Rhys ap Thomas who had been at the side of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. 

His grandson Sir Rhys who had married into the ducal Howard family was, however, executed for treason in 1531. 
He was just 23 years of age!  The evidence for his guilt was slight and his real offence was probably his Catholicism and his opposition to Anne Boleyn.  His fall brought his great possessions, said to have been worth £10,000 a year in land and £30,000 in personal property, into the hands of the Crown.

Rhys's son Griffith Rice, having secured some of the lost possessions, lost them again in 1557 when he was convicted of the murder of Mathew Walshe in Durham.   On the accession of Elizabeth he was pardoned and these lands were restored to him, including the manor of Newton. 

But i
t took another two generations to rebuild the family fortunes and regain much of the balance of their forfeited lands.

James Rice, Mayor of Waterford

James Rice, the 15th century mayor of Waterford, was the subject of a modern poem written by Knute Skinner in 1985.  It ran as follows:  

“In the city of Waterford  
a fifteenth-century mayor,
prosperous at the fairs
and many times re-elected,
began to fear for the people.  

After I am destroyed
no one will think, thought Rice,
that I, so often mayor
was an ordinary body.
And my fellow-citizens,
even these, who bestow the office
year after year -
so complete is their trust in me -
must think me superhuman.  

So greatly Rice feared
for the souls of his neighbors
when they asked his advice
on a cart wheel or a heifer,
or sought out his opinion
on guarding the Waterford coast
(and himself only their mayor)
that he wrote a strange will.

A fortnight from his decease,
according to instructions,
the people of Waterford
broke open his grave,
prominent in the cathedral.
Still standing there today
a finely carved tomb
commemorates Rice -
an old body, naked,
already decaying,
hungry vermin crawling
in and out of the ribs -
as he was last witnessed
by the clergy and laymen
whom he had served as mayor."

Once seen, his tomb is not easily forgotten.  On it is carved a decaying human figure with vermin crawling from the rotten flesh.  The effigy is carved in high relief and is represented lying on its back, having a shroud, tied in a knot, at the head and feet.  Vermin resembling frogs and toads are cut in the stone, as it were creeping out of the body.

James Louis Rice, Adventurer Abroad

The Rice family of Ballymacdoyle near Dingle were importers of French wine.  But their son James Louis wanted a different life.  He left for the Continent, educated himself in Belgium, and joined the Irish brigade of the Austrian army sometime in the 1750's.  He rose through the ranks, became a friend of Emperor Joseph II, and was ennobled as Comte Rice.  

After the Emperor’s sister Marie Antoinette married the French King in 1770, Rice drifted to Paris.  He was known there as a man who spoke little, gambled much (he was in fact a professional gambler), and fought many duels.  His most famous duel was with the Vicomte du Barry in 1778.  An eyewitness to the duel gave the following account:  

“They took the field, each armed with two pistols and with a sword.  The ground being marked out by the seconds, Vicomte du Barry fired first and lodged a ball in Comte Rice's thigh which penetrated as far as the bone.  

Comte Rice fired his pistol and wounded the Vicomte in the breast.  He went backwards two or three steps, then came forward again, and both at the same time presented their pistols to each other.  

The pistols flashed together in the pan, though one only was discharged.  Then they threw away their pistols and took to their swords.  When Comte Rice had advanced within a few yards of the Vicomte he saw him fall and he heard him cry out, "I demand my life," to which Comte Rice answered, "I grant it to you."  But in a few seconds the Vicomte fell back and expired.  

Comte Rice was brought back from the field with difficulty.” 

It was said that Comte Rice, when asked what was the cause of the duel, couldn’t remember.  

Times changed with the onset of the French Revolution in 1789.  Rice and his friends conceived of a plan to rescue Marie Antoinette from her French captors.  If she could make it to Nantes, then they could smuggle her out of France on one of Rice’s wine ships and she could recuperate in Dingle.  Marie Antoinette hesitated.  She did escape with her retinue in 1791, but was captured within a day at Varennes. She went to the guillotine two years later.

Rice Blacksmiths in Devon

Date of Birth
Place of Birth
Joseph Rice      
William Rice
Henry Rice
John Rice
Bratton Clovelly  
James Rice
John Rice
Richard Rice
William Rice

Edmund Rice's Descendants

Descendants of Edmund Rice began to meet annually at the old Rice homestead in Wayland in 1851. Documentation of these descendants began with the 1858 publication of a genealogy of the Rice family by Andrew H. Ward.  Ward was able to document over 6,200 Edmund Rice descendants and spouses, mostly in the New England region.  

In 1912, shortly after the old family homestead in Wayland had been lost by fire, the Rice descendants in Massachusetts formally organized the Edmund Rice (1638) Association (ERA).  The ERA undertook the task of building upon Ward’s pioneering genealogy by verifying and better documenting Edmund’s descendants.   For the 1938 tercentennial of Edmund's immigration to America, the ERA published Elsie Smith's Edmund Rice and his Family.  

By 1968, the ERA had compiled and verified 26,000 descendants of Edmund Rice.  In 2013, the ERA electronic database of known Edmund Rice descendants into the 14th and 15th generations exceeded 200,000 individuals.  The ERA has also conducted extensive haplotype DNA testing on males known to or believed to have been descended from the seven sons of Edmund

Fort Rice in Pennsylvania

In 1771 John Montgomery was the first settler in the land that later became Fort Rice in Northumberland county.   However, eight years later he had to flee the settlement because of Indian attacks.  The Indians burned all his buildings and grain stacks.  

Captain Frederick William Rice selected this site for his fort.  He built it with a company of Pennsylvania German troops in 1779 and early 1780.  All the time the Indians were spying and keeping a sharp watch. They knew that the settlers in the area had retreated to Fort Rice as they had destroyed all the other forts. 

On September 21, 1780, about 300 Indians made an assault upon the fort but were baffled and defeated by Captain Rice and his German soldiers.  Remnants of the fort are still visible.  On a stone in the south wall can be seen the carved initials “F. W. R."

The Murder of William M. Rice

By the late 1890’s William Rice was a childless widower, living the life of an elderly recluse in New York City. He was rich, however, and involved in litigation concerning his will.  Albert Patrick was engaged by him in 1898 as one of his lawyers.  Patrick soon met Charlie Jones, Rice's valet, and the two of them began to spend a great deal of time together.  Slowly they hatched a plot.

At first it seemed that Patrick was only interested in the settlement of the contested will and was looking for any way to win.  He convinced Jones to start poisoning Rice with mercury pills as a way of avoiding a court battle.  By the summer of 1900 Patrick came up with the idea of forging a will that left the majority of Rice's estate to himself and only small sums to relatives and friends.  That forged will was dated June 30, 1900.

In September of that year a hurricane struck the Gulf Coast and one of Rice's businesses there suffered severe damage.  The business manager telegraphed that they needed money for repairs.  The sum was most of what Rice had available in his bank account. Patrick worried at the loss of such a large sum of ready cash and he convinced Jones to use chloroform to kill Rice.

Rice was then murdered by Jones.  Patrick, in his haste to get hold of Rice's cash, tried to withdraw money from Rice's bank using a check forged by Jones right after Rice's death. The bank refused to honor the check since Patrick's name was spelled incorrectly. When calling to verify the check with Rice, the bank learned that he was dead. Since the circumstances were suspicious, the bank contacted Rice's Houston lawyer, Captain Baker.

When Baker arrived in New York City, he learned there had been a new will written up by Patrick. Baker was suspicious since Rice had never notified him of any changes to the one Baker had drawn up in 1896. That suspicion led to a long and sensational trial where Patrick's version of the will was exposed as a forgery and the scheme to kill Rice was discovered.

Patrick was found guilty of murder and forgery in 1902 and was sentenced to die in the electric chair. Jones, who had confessed to his part of the events, ended up being released despite being the one who had actually committed the murder. Patrick's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Governor of New York.  He eventually won a full pardon in 1912.

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